Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, the man who showed us winning ways in ‘away’ matches leading the team from the front. Losing his right eye in a nasty car crash, Tiger demonstrated his grit and determination to overcome the visual limitation by making his debut in international cricket at the young age of 20, thus becoming the youngest captain of India in the following year. In the trying circumstances in West Indies when the then Indian captain Nari Contractor suffered a serious head injury off a short pitched delivery from Charlie Griffith, Pat straightaway impressed everyone with his born skills..
As a noble gesture from the Royal descendant, he donated his good eye and his wish was ensured immediately after he passed away.
What an ‘attractive batsman’ he was, playing against pace and spin with equal ease. He never hesitated to go over the infield – putting the time machine back, how much I wish he had the opportunity to play in ODI and T 20!!
Well, is there something special about the water or rice or Biryani in Hyderabad which make the batsmen in the likes of Tiger, VVS Laxman, Azar, Mythali Raj etc …all play those delightful shots with elegant ease?!
Moving like a Tiger in front of the square, his ‘electric fielding capabilities’revolutionized Indian cricket! Great commentator Ananda Rao had a favourite phrase -Pataudi goes down on his single knee, makes sure of stopping the ball, picks it up and throws it to the keeper over the stumps.
On Sep 22, 2011, India lost this talented son.
I share my personal experience of watching him play some superb innings in India. In the home test series against Australia at Madras (Chennai) during late 1964, I was a very small kid and had the opportunity to watch Tiger at his best facing the pace attack of Graham McKenzie – Neil Hawke at their peak. Indians were tottering 75 for 6 with in form young Hanumant Singh getting out without scoring. Tiger, in the company of his vice-captain and ‘maestro’ Chandu Borde, steadied the rocking ship and had a much needed century partnership.
New ball was promptly taken. Borde went for square cut and was neatly caught in the slip by Simpson who went later on to complete a century of catches. The partnership for the 7th wicket was 142 – I reckon my memory and arithmetic are correct – as an ex Foreign Exchange Dealer of Bank! But Tiger weathered the pace attack. My brother and I were anxiously waiting up to the end of the day’s play hoping to see the captain completing a ton. General tendency for many spectators those days used to be to leave the stadium a little before stumps are drawn (now also) to catch the bus, train or any other transportation to go back home. But Pataudi had other ideas – remaining unbeaten at 98 (completing the ton only the next day 128 n.o)!
His cool captaincy was reflected when Dilip Sardesai dropped Kanhai at the deep extra cover (in 1967 series);he preferred to go up and console him without showing his own disappointment at the lost opportunity.
Chennai was always his hunting ground where he played another great innings against Bill Lawry’s Australia team during Dec 1969. He was the top scorer for India -59 – in India’s paltry total.
Another great innings from Tiger was during 1972-73 against Tony Lewis’ England at Chepauk. He scored 73 and in his usual style, when he lifted Pocock over ‘long on’ the spectators thought it was clearing the ropes but not many realized that Roger Tolchard was there at the fence to take the catch without moving from where he was! For those spectators at the far end of the stadium, it looked as though the twelfth man took the catch at the lawns of the pavilion but only to realize later that the party was spoiled for the Indians.
He was a ‘daring captain’ not hesitant to be adventurous with his bowling resources. He would bring the spinners in whom he had immense faith early before the shine was off the new ball. One exciting series was against the formidable West Indies led by Clive Lloyd when Sir Viv Richards made his debut and the bowling was spearheaded by the battery of pacers in 1974-75. India lost the tests at Bangalore and Delhi and beat them at Kolkata and Chennai, but ultimately lost the series 2-3 when the visitors outplayed us in the final test at Wankhede stadium. And at both the places where India had won, it was GR Vishwanath, who was mainly encouraged by Pat batted brilliantly.
I was thrilled when I met this genius at Chepauk in the pavilion lounge during a domestic match.
As an ardent fan of Tiger, I was looking forward to meet him again –it never happened!
May His Great Soul Rest In Peace!
By Seshadri Sreenivasan